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Mascot makes like a ghost while sign issue resolved

Sharnae Craig, Carrie Owiesny, Melanie Smith and Janet Hall stand by Big Boy's side and don't want to hide their famous mascot. Photo by Andrea Beaudoin (click for larger version)
November 06, 2013 - A mascot at the Big Boy Restaurant in Clarkston has been banned.

Standing along Dixie Highway, the restaurant's 12-foot-tall trademark is dressed up as a ghost until owner John Nannini figures out what to do with it.

Nannini said this isn't the first time the mascot has been targeted by Independence Township for violating a sign ordinance, with the most recent incident occurring about three weeks ago.

Nannini said he purchased the statue about 13 years ago.

"Families look forward to bringing in their family and taking a picture with the Big Boy," said Nannini.

"He's our pillar," said waitress Melanie Smith.

Nannini said before he purchased the Clarkston location in 2000, he worked in Big Boy corporate traveling the country to different Big Boy restaurants, so he has seen many restaurants, and knows how important the statue is for business.

In Waterford, two of the Big Boy restaurants closed. Nannini said his customers have asked if he is closing down, too. They seemed to relate the vanishing Big Boy statue to the restaurant's demise.

Nannini estimates when the statue is gone, his sales go down about 15 percent.

Nannini said after he put the Big Boy outside, a code enforcer from Independence Township told him it violated an Independence Township sign ordinance.

Nannini said after the first time Big Boy was banned, he attended an Independence Township Zoning Board of Appeals (ZBA) meeting to ask that the statue be allowed to remain. His plea was rejected.

After the ZBA rejected the statue, the mascot was brought inside and placed between two booths inside the restaurant.

"When he was gone, people were asking us where he went," said Nannini

The statue was put back outside 2 ½ years ago. Nannini said no one noticed until a few weeks ago, when the code enforcer gave him a letter telling him the statue must go.

He was also recently told to review the township's code of ordinances and he searched through all 332 pages of the online document.

Staff started thinking about what do with Big Boy, so they devised a plan decided to decorate him for Halloween. Now dressed as a ghost.

"We threw a sheet on him and now he is a Halloween decoration," said Nannini.

Waitress Janet Hall said perhaps next the Big Boy will be Santa, Cupid or the Easter Bunny.

Customer Joe Rehfus note there are several establishments in the community that have more than one sign on their property.

Rehfus said the Big Boy belongs, and he is one customer also willing to stand up to the township.

Nannini estimates Rehfus is not alone and said over a dozen of his customers have called Independence Township to protest Big Boy's ban.

"Every Big Boy restaurant has one of the statues," said Rehfus. "He belongs here."

"Many customers are also willing to go in front of the board, and stand up for Big Boy," said Nannin

Independence Township resident Gordon Pasco will speak up in favor of Big Boy, too.

"It's totally appropriate to be out there," he said.

The city of Dallas also nixed a similar statue at Kips Big Boy in Texas. The owner of that Big Boy said hundreds of passersby would stop for photos, which the city said it was a nuisance and a traffic hazard.

Independence Township officials could not be reached for comment on the issue.

Staff writer
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